What happens when circumstances force an ambitious young woman pursuing her post-graduate degree in mathematics to abandon her scholarship, move to her pregnant, newly-widowed sister’s home, and begin teaching music lessons? And what would she do if the only way to obtain the desperately needed job was to also coach girls’ basketball – a game she knows nothing about? Well, if you are curious to discover the answers to these questions, you will need to find a copy of Anne Mateer’s newest 2014 release by Bethany House – Playing by Heart.
Likely the most unusual aspect of this book will jump out at readers as they begin Chapter 2… The surprise does not lie in the setting of a small Oklahoma town during World War I, or in the unique characteristics of our heroine, Lula Bowman, who teaches advanced mathematics while pursuing additional degrees in the same subject. It is not even the unexpected twist of a sudden death very early in the story. No, the most unexpected feature is that while the story is revealed through first-person perspective, it is written from not one, but two (first-person) viewpoints! Helping to keep it clear who is in the focal point, each chapter alternates between Lula Bowman and Chet Vaughn, math teacher and boy’s basketball coach at Lula’s new school. Using this fascinating technique, the story is revealed in a fresh, interesting manner as Lula and Chet both overcome the hurts of their pasts – even as God leads them closer to Him, and into a future far beyond what either could have imagined.
Although the story of Lula and Chet is endearing and convincing, the underlying theme and messages of Playing by Heart are especially relevant in my life – and I believe in the lives of many. Both primary characters are living lives that go against the normal tendencies of their day, and against the wishes of many people near to them. While this causes heartache at times, the beauty of God’s divine plan is revealed over time. In addition, the importance of using the gifts God places inside each one of His children, and heeding the whisperings of the quiet voice inside our hearts, is portrayed in the story with grace and insight.
A few minor drawbacks, such as untrue implications of less-than-honorable actions, detract only slightly from the overall enjoyment of Playing by Heart. If you are looking for a fresh, historical story containing heartfelt, thought-provoking character development, this is the book for you. You may even learn a thing or two about mathematics, basketball, and following the path God has set before you in the process!
“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”